Western spectacles – look who’s seeing

Singapore Democrats

For a government as myopic as this one, PM Lee Hsien Loong should be the last to give anyone advice on the kind of spectacles to wear (see report below).

The two organisations that handle the nation’s reserves — one run by his father, the other his wife — were so short-sighted in their investments in Western banks that we have lost more than $100 billion to-date.

The Minister Mentor and Madam Ho have yet to explain what led them to take the decisions to inject our funds into ailing and corrupt financial institutions.

Did these banks invite us to invest in them like what Citigroup did to the GIC? Who signed the cheques? What due diligence did the GIC and Temasek perform?

Most crucially, whose glasses were Temasek and GIC wearing then?

Now when things go ka-boom! the Prime Minister calls on us not to see matters through Western glasses. Good grief.

Mr Lee says the media “should just present the facts”. Okay.

  • GIC invested US$6.9 billion in Citigroup. Stocks in the bank plunged so much that there is much talk that it might be nationalised.
  • GIC invested US$10 billion into UBS who stocks plummeted to historic lows today. The Swiss bank has admitted to defrauding the US Government in helping tax cheats and will pay hefty fines.
  • Temasek invested US$5 billion in Merrill Lynch saying that it had “great confidence” in Merril. The bank went bust and its leaders are now the subject of investigations by US authorities.
  • Temasek invested $4.5 billion in Barclays. That same year the bank announced a write-down of almost that amount.

The picture through any lens — Western or Asia — looks astonishingly negligent. But what Mr Lee really meant was not Asian spectacles, but rather the ones put in front of us by the Singapore Press Holdings.

If it were indeed Asian glasses (think Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc) that we are supposed to be looking through, Mr Lee and company would have had to apologise to the people for the financial debacle and there would be calls for the leadership to step down.

At the very least parliamentary opposition would be asking tough questions and calling the Government to account and to take responsibility.

But with SPH glasses, the vision would continue to be blur and we will still be unable to see what is coming up ahead.

Singaporean PM asks news media not to wear western spectacles
23 Feb 09

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said there is a need for news media to present objective reports and not to wear “western spectacles”, local media reported on Monday.

In an interview with TV broadcaster Channelnewsasia, which is to celebrate its tenth anniversary on-air, Lee said the challenge that news media is facing is to be able to boil down information and present news neutrally out of Singapore.

“We felt there was scope for perspective from Asian eyes. Not to put over an ideology or a doctrine, but just present the facts, less the western spectacles,” Lee said.

Lee also told the broadcaster that the government is building up capabilities to engage and leverage on the new media at the next General Election in 2012, but he added there is still a place for traditional media to be the trusted information source.


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